Everything I Need to Know About Life, I Learned From Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977)

Everything I need to know about life I learned from Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977).

We at Mr. and Mrs. 55 – Classic Bollywood Revisited! are getting tired of some of the recent unhinged political rhetoric being thrown around. Sometimes we have to take a moment to realize that not everyone was lucky enough to learn important life lessons as we were from classic Bollywood films.

Amar Akbar, Anthony (1977) is one of India’s most beloved masala films, telling the story of three brothers who are separated in childhood and eventually united after one is raised a Hindu, one a Muslim, and one a Christian. Let’s take a moment to reflect on what Vinod Khanna, Rishi Kapoor, and Amitabh Bachhan’s title characters would have to say about recent events.

3 Life Lessons From Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977):

1. We CAN all live in harmony.

Amar akbar anthony

Plurality makes us better. Families, communities, and countries are enriched because we embrace and learn from our differences.

2. A family that sings and dances together, stays together.

anthony gonsalves egg

On a related note, always, always have a giant Easter egg handy. Just trust me.

3. Karma is a b****.

Pran Amar Akbar Anthony

A really huge b****. If you insult a man when he’s down, you’re going to be that man soon. And everyone, even your kids, will hate you. Until, of course, you repent and join them in a group chorus (see rule #2).

Pass this along to friends, shady pharmaceutical executives, and bombastic political wannabes who don’t quite get it. And if your childhood was completely empty, you can now watch Amar, Akbar, Anthony online and subtitled here!

Your welcome.

– Mrs. 55

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How to Play the Awkward Miffed Lover

It happens to everyone at some point. We all hate this situation. You land the girl of your dreams, you take her to a fancy dinner party, and just when everything is going your way, her ex-lover crashes the scene. With the heavenly voice of a playback singer, the new contender bursts into dramatic song, calling out his passion with your girl in front of EVERYONE.

Plus, the more the song goes on, the more you realize you’re trapped–any interruption would only backfire. And on top of it, your girl is getting embarrassingly emotional.

So what to do? It’s clear everyone in the audience is just cheering for those two to reunite, leaving YOU with the ugly villain label. The rules of the game prevent you from simply cutting the song off short—you have no option but to helplessly be made a fool. It’s such an unfair tactic, and heroes of Bollywood films LOVE to use it.

In times like these, we reflect on the inspiring behavior of greater men. They too were placed in these compromising and uncomfortable situations. Each one had their own style, their own method of handling the filmi fire life dealt them.

As I see it, you have five main options to choose from. Let us examine their protocols below.

The Vinod Khanna: Get Angry

During the beautiful love ode “Koi Nazarana Lekar” from Aan Milo Sajna (1970), Vinod Khanna shoots daggers from his eyes at the shameless flirt Rajesh Khanna.

Option 1. Get angry. It’s bad enough that you showed up to this event in a lime green tuxedo. Complete the look and let your face turn pea green with envy. Who cares who judges you? Be a party-pooper and scowl your way through the song, sucking the joy out of everyone else’s fun.

The Rehman: Blush

Ugh. Nothing worse than having your own crimes turned into public poetry. Although it’s a black-and-white film, you can see Rehman turn a hot pink during Guru Dutt’s classic lament “Jaane Woh Kaise” from Pyaasa (1957).

Option 2. Blush. You’re guilty and there’s no hiding it. Don’t make eye contact with anyone! Instead, mentally review the cquestionable ethical decisions you took along the path that led you to this debacle. You will realize what a jerk you’ve been, and although you have to stay the course, colour will rise to your cheeks.

The Raj Kapoor: Play it off as a joke

Always a goofball, Raj Kapoor attempts valiantly to make light of the humiliating situation wrought by Dilip Kumar singing “Jhoom Jhoom Ke” from Andaz (1949).

Option 3. Play it off as a joke. You’re at a dinner party, after all and this is no time to aggravate the situation. Keep that bow-tie straight and act casual. With enough non-chalance, maybe the party-goers will think it’s only a bit of fun among friends?

The Rishi Kapoor: Give up

Horror and resignation overwhelm Rishi Kapoor’s face during Tariq’s performance of “Kya Hua Tera Wada” from Hum Kisise Kam Nahin (1979)

Option 4. Give up. Just give up. How could you have not known of this beautiful subverted love story earlier? This is entirely your fault. You’re overwhelmed with moral guilt and regret–do the righteous thing and withdraw your nomination from the ballet entirely. In this way, you can quickly drop the villain label and return to your proper place as hero!

The Pran: Enjoy the show

Pran doesn’t ruffle a feather during Shammi Kapoor’s heartfelt and passionate “Dil Ke Jharoke” from Brahmachari (1968). But hey, when you’re as devastatingly sophisticated as Pran, you wouldn’t have time for these amateurs either.

Option 5. Enjoy the show. After all, who’s worried? This other guy has nothing on you, you suave gift to womankind.  Keep the entertainment coming! Oh, I’m sorry, honey, are you crying? Here, take my silk handkerchief. You might need it.

So the next time you hear the tinkerings of a tragic song start on the piano behind you, don’t panic. There is a way out! Just pick an approach from the textbook of Hindi films. If classic Bollywood has taught us anything about these moments, it’s that they can and will happen all the time. Tell us whose approach YOU prefer!

-Mrs. 55

The Best Qawwalis of Bollywood Films

Rishi Kapoor Amar Akbar Anthony Bollywood Qawwali
Rishi Kapoor Amar Akbar Anthony Bollywood Qawwali

Rishi Kapoor charms his audience singing the famous qawwali “Pardah Hai Pardah” from Amar Akbar Anthony (1979).

The qawwali from films has a hallowed place in the history of the Hindi music industry. A mystic tradition more than 700 hundred years old, the qawwali gained prominence in Bollywood initially through 1950s Muslim social dramas and grew so much in popularity that its influences became mainstream–even continuing to live on today. We present our list below of the best qawwalis of Bollywood films.

But let us first define what precisely is a qawwali? The great Indian poet Amir Khusrau (d. 1326) is considered the founding father of the qawwali genre, having composed songs for the first time in this style to celebrate the death of his spiritual guide Nizamuddin Aulia. The qawwali is the authentic Sufi spiritual song that transports the mystic toward union with God. For centuries, Sufi communities in the Indian subcontinent have sustained this musical tradition in the mahfil-e-sama, or assembly for listening. The qawwali was a religious experience for both listener and performer: as the listener hopes for a spiritual experience of intensity and immediacy to transcend his or her conscious striving, the trained performer seeks to present in song a vast treasure of poetry that articulate and evoke a mystical experience for the audience.

Madhubala impresses the Mughal prince in the classic qawwali “Teri Mehfil Mei.N Qismat” from Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

The qawwali performance usually begins after the evening and may last all night until the morning prayers. The word qawwali means “words” worthy of remembrance, and as such the qawwali traditionally has a devotional aspect in praise of God. Even most “secular” qawwalis found in popular Bollywood movement can be read in this way, although superficially the lyrics have another literal meaning. The harmonium has replaced what was traditionally a sitar as musical accompaniment, but equally important are the tabla and the signature qawwali cyclic hand clapping that increase in speed during the performance. The tarz or tune of the qawwali is normally identified by the first line of the text, which is often a part of the refrain couplet. Although the qawwal was traditionally male, both men and women have enjoyed and excelled at performing the modern qawwali.

Rishi Kapoor dazzles his audience as a popular qawwal in the 1979 blockbuster Amar Akbar Anthony.

Unlike in Hindustani classical music, while taal and raagaa usage is the same, the qawwali places a greater emphasis on the poetic text and the delivery of its message than on musical ornamentation. In many of its vast incarnations within Bollywood, the qawwali became synonymous with a musical debate, a verbal battle (often between the sexes) to outwit the other side on topics that usually boil down to love or the pain of love. That kind of screen chemistry, as you can imagine, is prime Bollywood flirting territory just waiting to be sung.

Let’s take a look at how this genre evolved in mainstream Bollywood into one of the most beloved musical genres of the industry. Here are some highlights:

Humen To Loot LiyaAl Hilal (1958):

One of the first qawwalis to hit the silver screen, no list is complete without this retro low-budget gem. The music is really quite simple, but extremely catchy.

Yeh Ishq Ishq HaiBarsaat Ki Raat (1960):

This qawwali is an Urdu-lover’s paradise. Filled with complex words and allusions you’ll never use in real life, “Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai” set the stage for classy performance duels between men and women that is still considered the greatest Bollywood qawwali for its poetry (see our post for a full English translation!)

Sharma Ke Yeh Kyo.NChaudhvin Ka Chand (1960):

A fun twist on the traditional qawwali, two women sing (Asha Bhonsle and Shamshad Begum) with the latter taking the masculine side and the former taking the feminine.

Teri Mehfil Mei.N QismatMughal-e-Azam (1960):

Oh, does it get any better than this? Every moment of Mughal-e-Azam is a poetic dream and this briliant qawwali is no less. Shamshad Begum battles Lata Mangeshkar for the Prince’s approval of their take on love, each lyric outwitting the last. See our translation with glossary for more!

Nigahe.N Milane KoDil Hi To Hai (1963):

Asha Bhonsle’s greatest contribution to this genre, this qawwali has some beautiful Urdu and probably the most thrilling sargams you’ll find in any of her songs. See our translation with glossary here!

Tumhe Husn Dekhe – Jab Se Tumhe Dekha Hai (1963):

OK, so sure, this qawwali is not particularly memorable for its musical ingenuity (you may or may not cringe the entire way), but how often are you going to behold Shammi and Shashi Kapoor on screen at the same time?! This fascinating qawwali is worth a watch if only for its star value! Kudos to Geeta Bali for holding her own!

Mehengai Maar GayiRoti Kapada Aur Makaan (1974):

This qawwali has a unique flavor–taken from one of Manoj Kumar’s popular Indian propoganda films, the lyrics carry an interesting social message outside the realms of romantic love.

Pardah Hai PardahAmar Akbar Anthony (1979):

A Mohammed Rafi gem, this qawwali ranks among the best of the best. After watching Rishi Kapoor’s enthusiastic performance, you’d believe he was born to be a qawwal. The song is a must-see for anyone interested in the genre.

And just to throw in the contemporary, here’s a picture of me performing the qawwali at last year’s Harvard Ghungroo!

At a Harvard Ghungroo performance of Asha Bhonsle’s “Nigaahe.N Milane Ko.”

-Mrs. 55

Who Is Mani Rabadi?

You’ve probably never heard of Mani Rabadi, but I’ll bet you’ve seen her work before. A behind-the-scenes legend, Mani Rabadi was a fashion designer to the stars. This woman was the final word in costume design for Bollywood films of the 60s and 70s (even continuing to work until Hum Aapke Hain Kaun in 1994)! If you wanted something run-of-the-mill, Mani Rabadi was not your woman. But if a director wanted something to stand out, to set bold trends, and to wow the audience with glamour, she was the only choice. When you see some of the pictures below, you can readily understand how this silent woman in the background transformed the careers of the stars. Her styles turned actors into icons, and made actresses into idols.

Starting her career in a humble toy factory to help pay tuition, and then joining the Indian People’s Theatre Association, Mani got her first break doing Gujarati films before moving to Bollywood. Here is a gallery of her designs from the movies we all love:

An Evening in Paris (1967)

Sharmila actually plays a dual role in the film. The villainous side incidentally always shows her tummy–just to help the audience keep things straight.

Uhh, what precisely are you looking at Pran?

Cutsy hair clip that’s bigger than my nose? Don’t mind if I do.

Jewel Thief (1967)

I’ve talked a lot about my feelings for Helen in a chicken suit from this film, but this picture definitely deserves one more mention.

Yup, those are cotton balls puffing out of that red sari like polka dots. Just saying, it takes a bold and confident woman to try and pull that off.

Dev Anand poses as a French jewelry importer. Can’t you tell by the beret?

Aradhana (1969)

Who can forget Rajesh Khanna’s tall Nepali hat as he bellows “Mere Sapnon Ki Rani” on a hillside?

Rajesh Khanna in a blue suit with a hot red turtleneck during “Kora Kaagaz Tha” is the epitome of suave.

Unarguably the most famous scene from Aradhana, Sharmila Tagore makes a sari out of a flimsy blanket…and the rest is history.

Bobby (1973)

Youth and freedom must mean a tight leather jacket!

Umm, ok Dimple Kapadia, where did the rest of your shirt go though?

Cute but completely arbitrary villager costume for “Jhoot Bole Kauva Kate.”

Farz (1961)

Nice ascot, Jeetendra.

Oh, those tight white pants that made you who you were. It’s no wonder Jeetendra was nicknamed “Jumping Jack”!

Prince (1969)

Did someone say “hep cat”?!

Helen and Vijayantimala dance off in “Muqabla Humse Na Karo.”

Kati Patang (1970)

Asha briefly portrays a 70s bride before running away from the ceremony.

Bindu makes a spectacle of herself in comparison to Asha’s stark white sari..

Amar Akbar Anthony (1979)

Rishi Kapoor dresses as a qawwal by night.

There actually aren’t really words for this.

Moss green pleather jacket with religious bling.

You are wearing a fedora? Clearly, you have become a millionaire.

Don (1978)

Nothing says “bad boy” like a big red bowtie.

Don’t mess with her scarf.

Or his.

Helen rocks an overly slitted dress for “Yeh Mera Dil” in Don (1978)

The bottom line here is, could Jeetendra have seized Bombay by storm without his famous tight white pants? Could Dimple Kapadia have shot to stardom without costumes that only covered half of the minimum required? Doubtful. Sure, you might not want to be caught dead in a ditch with many of these outfits, but her work is so diverse, eye-catching, and unpredictable: Mani Rabadi is unarguably genius. Next time you watch one of these hits, consider the people behind the scenes and appreciate their fluid artistry hidden within the films.

-Mrs. 55